Tester Urges Administration to Support Montana Ag Producers, Lift South Africa Travel Ban
Senator: “I have spoken directly to several producers in recent weeks who expressed alarm that the travel ban may prevent their operations from accessing this essential labor this year.”
After hearing from Montana producers who are concerned about the effect the South African travel ban will have on the state’s agricultural workforce, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today urged Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to support family farmers and ranchers by lifting the ban.
“Due to the workforce shortages, many farmers and ranchers rely on the H-2A guestworker visa initiative to secure enough labor to produce a crop or raise livestock,” wrote Tester. “I have spoken directly to several producers in recent weeks who expressed alarm that the travel ban may prevent their operations from accessing this essential labor next year. With South Africa, many of the estimated 7,000 workers expected to fill workforce gaps this year are scheduled to arrive in the next few months. With all of the uncertainty producers are facing with the pandemic, record corporate consolidation in agribusiness and drought, now is not the time to further disrupt farmers and ranchers by making it harder to secure necessary labor.”
He concluded: “As we work together to protect ourselves and our communities now that the Omicron variant is here, I don’t believe continuing the travel ban is necessary. Please support America’s farmers and ranchers by lifting the ban.”
Secretary Blinken imposed the travel ban on South Africa in hopes of limiting the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. However, it has become clear in recent weeks that the omicron variant is already prevalent across the United States, rendering the ban unnecessary.
As the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has fought hard to defend Montana family farms and ranches and advocate for producers. He recently introduced his American Beef Labeling Act will reinstate Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) for beef. He also introduced his bipartisan Meatpacking Special Investigator Act which will create a new dedicated office within the Department of Agriculture’s Packers and Stockyards Division, addressing anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries, and he introduced his bipartisan Livestock Disaster Relief Act with Senator Hoeven (R-N.D.) to ensure that Montana’s ranchers receive necessary relief to recover from future disasters. In response to this year’s extreme weather, he also secured USDA relief for Montana producers through the authorization of haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, LFP funding, and ELAP funding.
Tester’s letter to Secretary Blinken can be found HERE.